Wednesday, 17 September 2008


Banks Violette (from top:) as yet untitled (TriStar horse), video projection in water vapour, dimensions variable, 2008; as yet untitled (single screen), wood, expoxy, ash, steel, steel hardware, hand-cast aluminium hardware, aluminium, sandbags, duct tape, 244x 488 x 80cm, 2008. Images courtesy Maureen Paley, London. 

Banks Violette, Maureen Paley, 10 September - 19 October, 2008.

Banks Violette is making luxurious, expensive looking sculptures, whose natural home and economy is the commercial white cube gallery. Banks Violette is also much grungier than that, wanting to reveal, exaggerate and smash up a little the glossiness he constructs.  

Upstairs at Maureen Paley, as yet untitled (single screen) and as yet untitled (broken screen) (both 2008) comprise reflective, black, aluminum screens, whose plywood backs emphasize construction over illusion, and are even draped with clean and neatly folded workman's overalls. One screen is partly mangled and distorted as if it has been involved in some horrendous road crash, giving the object a history beyond its presence in the gallery, and literally  moving the piece beyond a smooth reflection of its circumstances.

Banks Violette, as yet untitled (broken screen), aluminium, fibreglass, wood, epoxy, ash, steel, steel hardware, sandbags, duct tape, 244x 488x 260cm, 2008.  Courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

This sense of disruption is also true of as yet untitled (TriStar horse) (2008), the show's centrepiece: a video projection of a galloping horse projected on a screen of water vapour.  This is a piece possessed of lavish showmanship and exhibitionism, evoking similar hi-tech plays with proto-cinema projection of the recent Mat Collishaw show at the Haunch of Venison. But, different from Collishaw, Violette's horse is dependent on a deafening racket of industrial humidifers, as if to dissuade any collector who fancies a galloping steam horse to decorate their living room. 

Violette also installs the piece in a way that highlights the bareness of the room, the equipment and machinery that he needs, as if wanting this to be experienced more as a basement or broom cupboard than the elegant, minimal white cube it normally is. Indeed, all those issues of presentation and the gallery become focussed on the shimmering form of the white steam-horse itself. 

In the notes for his show Violette reveals how the horse is a clip appropriated from the opening animation for TriStar Pictures, in which a white horse gallops against a black background, grows wings, and flies away. He further observes:

I have used the image of the horse repeatedly, it's an image that falls into that category of images that are void-exhausted and over-determined and drained of life through over-use. This idea of a void image is a constant throughout my work; the idea of an image seemingly unable to exceed the weight of its own overuse, yet somehow, once in a while, capable of reanimation. And like a zombie reanimation results in a negative return.

All of which is fascinating, but I'm not sure it had much to do with how I experienced the piece. The noise of the machinery, and the shifting folds of the horse, hold the work close to its own materiality. The horse is clearly recognizable, but such a form is also indistinct. Watching it, I became fascinated by exactly why such an arrangement of shapes should so clearly be identified as galloping horse by the perceiving mind. 

But this was as far as I went. I wonder if to shift beyond this material and perceptual immediacy to a broader consideration of horse-iconography, or to some critical engagement with Hollywood, could actually require an installation less insistent about its own presence, less brashly seductive about its own status as spectacle. 


Banks Violette,  as yet untitled (broken screen) and as yet untitled (single screen). Installation view. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

So, yeah, dear reader, I'm noticing that themes keep coming back in these reviews. I'm drawn to things that employ spectacle, often through a deployment of hi-tech version of proto-cinema projection techniques. But then I get upset at the claims of such work to be socially engaged. I seem to feel that the spectacle itself sets up certain relationships, which it is wrong to spoil with these claims to social and political efficacy.

But I want the work to have social and political efficacy! I'm feeling that the spectacle itself is where such efficacy must reside. I feel that if you deploy the tools of the circus, the marvelous and the fantastic, then it's out of the thrill and engagement that creates that any criticality must come. This is ongoing...